FILE PHOTO: Oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz

FILE PHOTO: Oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

IFAN Invests $1.2 Million to Future-Proof Safe Navigation in Middle East

gCaptain
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September 15, 2021

The International Foundation for Aids to Navigation (IFAN) has announced a near $1.2 million investment to promote safe navigation in the Middle East Gulf, including significant recapitalization of the Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) sites it operates in the region. The investment will also provide for the construction of a new workboat to help strengthen its capabilities when it comes to maintaining Aids to Navigation (AtoNs) in the Middle East Gulf.

The announcement, made during London International Shipping Week, underlines IFAN’s commitment to safe navigation in this important waterway. The investment, implemented through its Gulf arm, the Middle East Navigation Aids Service (MENAS), will mean the upgrading of the four DGPS sites in the Gulf, starting with Ras Al Khaymah to ensure against redundancy in case any site fails or has to be shut down for maintenance.

The Ras Al Khaymah DGPS site will be relocated 5km away from the previous location, and only a few meters away from shore. It will have a range of more than 250 nautical miles covering the entire southern part of the Arabian Gulf and part of Gulf of Oman. The DGPS capability will boost positioning accuracy for less than 1 meter compared to 10+ meters promised by traditional GPS systems.

Dual units at each site will also ensure continuous coverage, even in the case of one unit malfunctioning, and they can be remotely controlled. Mean time between failure of the system is greater than 50,000 hrs with availability of 99.95% over two years, in compliance with IALA requirements.

The workboat, which is being built in the United Arab Emirates, should be operational by the beginning of October and will have a range of more than 40 nautical miles, enabling it to reach offshore waters in the Gulf.

Operated through MENAS, the workboat will have a shallow draft allowing it to access inshore areas to maintain light beacons. Its overall size and the size of the cabin will allow for a much wider weather window for operations. Being able to accommodate more workers and spares, it is an altogether more fuel-efficient vessel than its predecessor.

The new vessel is fully equipped with radar to check the Racons signal, AIS receiver to monitor AtoNs, as well as AIS functionality and other standard navigation aids such as DGPS receivers.

Welcoming the announcement, Peter Stanley, CEO of IFAN, said the investment would greatly enhance MENAS’s ability to undertake its important maintenance work in the region.

“Investment in the DGPS sites is crucially important if we are to upgrade aging equipment,” he said. “And the enhanced capabilities of the new workboat will strengthen our maintenance of AtoNs in the region. It is part of our overall strategy of renewing our equipment and systems in the region to ensure continued safe navigational aids for ships using this important trade lane.”

MENAS, which is part of the International Foundation for Aids to Navigation (IFAN) Group, provides a service of AtoNs fitted with satellite monitoring system and Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders to track the location and the status of the AtoN equipment, and using AIS data, to monitor passing traffic and carry out risk assessments.

MENAS also provides essential information and advice such as the issuance of Notices to Mariners advising on hazards to shipping coordinating additions to navigation charts for the Gulf and the broadcast of Navigation warnings every four hours, as well as a weather bulletin every 12 hours covering the entire Gulf. Over 2,000 vessels rely upon MENAS equipment and services each month.

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